Revisiting Western Steer (Kind of)

Earlier this week, I attended a “going away” lunch for a co-worker who is taking another job in a faraway state. We went to a Mexican restaurant that opened near the tail end of Covid. I had never visited this establishment in its current form before, nor had I visited the place while it was occupied by other restaurants. Before being a Mexican restaurant, it was a seafood place called Harbor House. Before that, it was a seafood place as well called the Mayflower. Both have been pretty popular through the years, but I never went in. While eating lunch and looking around the place, I had to strain my brain to remember just how long it actually had been since I was in there. 35 years. I was ten years old the last time I was in that building, back when it was Western Steer.

As a kid, Western Steer was as fancy of a place as my family went as far as restaurants go. It was what I grew to call a $10 steak house as I got a little older. In the mid to late ’90s, we became inundated with “fancier” chain steak houses like Damon’s, O’Charley’s, and a few others as we added new mega shopping centers in the area. So a $10 steak house was a place where you could go grab a chopped steak, potato, salad, and bread for around the aforementioned $10. While a $10 steakhouse wasn’t as impressive as the others, it allowed you to take a date to a place nicer than Taco Bell but helped you avoid going broke at the same time.

Depends on where you’re from, $10 steakhouses went by different names. Places like Bonanza, Ponderosa, and Western Sizzlin’ are just a few examples, but Western Steer was always my favorite of the bunch.

My dad has never been a fan of true cuts of steak like NY Strip, Ribeye, Filet Mignon, or others, preferring to keep to the chopped steak, which is just a fancy name for a plain old hamburger steak. Growing up in this environment made that my preferred steak as well. I enjoy a good cut of steak, but I find that half the time I still go with the old classic chopped steak.

Re-enactment of what my dad used to order.

As I was sitting in that restaurant looking around, nostalgia washed over me like a waterfall. The booths hadn’t really changed other than some fresh vinyl, and the layout was still pretty much as I remembered it. I could remember walking into the place and heading to the left to grab a tray, put in our drink orders, and slide on down to order our dinners. Dad always got his chopped steak platter with baked potato, side salad, and Texas Toast. Mom and I would order the salad bar, which also had soup on it. As I grew older, I also started ordering the chopped steak. And those plates. Those classic old steakhouse plates that were heated to a temperature just shy of 1000 degrees that would keep your food hot during the entire meal. I think those are the plates people eat from when they get to heaven.

For years I’ve lamented the fact that places like this just don’t really exist anymore. As my kids were growing up, I found myself many times wishing I could take them to Western Steer or Bonanza and relive those memories, albeit as the father instead of as the kid.

My lunch was nothing memorable, and I doubt I’ll be going back unless it’s for some other function similar to this one. But for one shining hour, just being in that place made me feel young at heart again, and had memories welling up that I’ll be thinking back on for quite some time.

6 thoughts on “Revisiting Western Steer (Kind of)

  1. There is exactly ONE Western Steer left in the country, and it’s in Newton, NC. I just got hired by them. I used to go to Western Steer a lot with my dad in the 90s.

    • So what does the menu look like now? Can you still get a chopped steak, backed potato, and Texas toast? Still have a food bar. I ask because Newton is close enough for a road trip to try it again!

  2. Wonderful! I DO remember Western Steer!! The one that was our favorite in Colorado was Western Sizzlin’. Nowadays, I do love a New York Strip or Ribeye, but am honestly just as happy with a good quality chopped steak as well. Thanks for the memories!

    • This reminded me of how I used to love going to Bonanza as a kid in the 80’s and in the 90’s as well. There used to be a movie theater in the same parking lot that had 2 screens, my dad would take us to watch a movie and then to the Bonanza right afterwards. I always loved going to the salad bar and pretty much filling up before my burger and fries were served. To this day I make my salads exactly like I did there. I loved those plates as well, I’ve never looked online for them, but would love to buy a couple if possible. My love of A1 steak sauce also comes from there, good times.

  3. I remember Western Steer. I believe there was one in Mount Airy, which is where my family used to go.

    I liked that kind of thing enough that I wound up taking a job at a Quincy’s when I was a bit older. Man, I miss those kinds of places.

  4. It’s amazing how something as simple as going out to eat as a family can make such memories. I think about that every time we take our daughter out to eat. Great story Mickey

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